District implements major security, safety changes

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AJ Wolken staff writer

Priscilla Hopper media manager

The recent nationwide discussion of school campus security has propelled administration to look closer into the school’s procedures in the event of an emergency. The high school has also experienced a possible shooter threat, and multiple arrests related to gun violence and possession around the high school. In response, administration hopes to enhance school safety for all students district-wide with attempted improvements like a fence, new alarm systems and and an increased on-campus police presence.

One solution that has even been brought up by President Donald Trump is the possibility of arming security guards or teachers. While the idea is very controversial, a security guard at the high school who wishes to remain anonymous believes that this would have greater costs than benefits.

“No, [arming staff] is not a good idea. It takes a lot of extensive training to carry a firearm with expertise and accuracy and with that type of training it would require specialized set of skills to use that gun around ,students and that’s not healthy for the school and not healthy for the

students.”

The current campus security staff is in charge of ensuring the general safety of the students, and their duties include following basic emergency protocols, monitoring students, parents and visitors on campus, escorting people on or off campus, regulating class chaos and maintaining friendly relationships with many students on campus. Even without arming the campus security, science teacher Steve Geanakos is confident in the current security guards’ ability to relate to and protect students.

“I think [our security] does a good job. They do a good job at securing; they have a good relationship with the kids,” Geanakos said. “They seem to know what’s going on. I would hope that the administration uses them and their knowledge of what’s going on to help in securing [the campus].”

In just the past month, the city, school board and administration have held multiple forums to get input from the community on how to improve the safety of the students. One of the biggest concerns was the openness of the campus.

“I do not believe that the security detail is enough due to the open plan of our school. Most anybody can walk onto our campus without being suspected of unsolicited behavior,” senior Michael Huang said.

This concern was recently addressed by the fencing of the campus to create more of a closed, safe perimeter. That is just one of many expected improvements to be made to campus protection.

However, in the recent national push for enhanced school safety, Principal Mark Mead looks to improve upon the current security staff with new training and protocols.

“We are currently using our security team to keep the campus perimeter secured. Fencing and PA/bell systems are highest immediate priority and we are confident they will be in place within a month’s time,” Mead said. “We also acknowledge that continued improvements like signage, new protocols, and training for security, staff and students will be ongoing and equally important to long-term success.”

The high school conducted a lockdown drill on Feb. 20, shortly after the Parkland shooting, to remind students and staff members what to do in the event of a threat on campus.

“The school, district and city are all working together to meet the concerns that are being expressed by the community.  Much of this plan is layered, starting with immediate needs of a secure perimeter,” Mead said.

An effective alarm system is essential for school safety in the event of an emergency. With the addition of the Science and Technology Center over a decade ago, the lockers, science and math rooms and bells/emergency exits were updated. However, due to the age of the main building, the fire alarms and bells have become inconsistent. Art teacher Michael Federman’s classroom is located in the main building, where there have been many problems with the bell/alarm system.

“Alarms don’t ring in many classrooms. Mine, particularly. For over 10 years there has been an issue in which the bell system from building A is separate and not in unison with the bells for the science building,” Federman said. “We have had maintenance and several other outside parties come and look at this situation-nothing has been a permanent fix.”

In the midst of the communitywide panic for enhanced school safety, Mead feels that the school is making the necessary changes to ensure that students’ safety is not at risk while they are at school. Most recently, administration has eliminated on-campus student drop-off, implemented a new PA system, and asked that students keep their student ID cards on them when on campus. These are just a few of the many efforts being made to enhance security.

“Lately, I am certain that students do not feel safe. We acknowledge that and we are making the necessary improvements to secure the perimeter and provide the bells necessary for a successful lockdown,” Mead said. “Once this is done, I am hopeful that our students will remember that this school has been a safe place for them for decades. This feeling of safety and security is vital for their academic success.”

 

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